American Idol, the once-mighty singing competition, is making its briefly-awaited return in March, and ABC and new judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan are hoping they can recapture its former glory. The judges, plus returning host Ryan Seacrest and executive producers Trish Kinane, Megan Michaels Wolflick and Jen Mullin were all on hand during the Television Critics Association winter press tour to talk about how they're going to make American Idol great again.
Part of what made American Idol a success in its first season was the fact that its winner was Kelly Clarkson, an uncannily charismatic performer who is still one of the show's most successful Idol. And in its early years, it did produce stars who sold albums and stuck around in the public consciousness after the season ended. But as the show went on, the star power of the winners declined. A critic in the room asked the judges if they could name any of the winners of Idol's final three seasons on Fox.
"I can't, because this is the first season of American Idol," Perry joked.
But seriously, what are they going to do to make sure that American Idol successfully returns to its original mission of creating a music superstar?
Bryan said they're working really hard and thinking very carefully in their deliberations, because they don't want the winner to fail to make an impact. "We want it to be right back to where American Idol is known for," he said.
"Literally, we are wasting our time if we do not find a star," said Perry. She said that Americans don't need another singing television show that will produce a forgettable winner, "They need another legit American Idol."
They way to do that is to find someone with what Richie calls "instant identity;" that is, the combination of talent and style and uniqueness that true artists have. But finding that is really hard, and that's where the judges' expertise comes in.
Whether they're actually able to do that remains to be seen, but if they don't, Katy Perry will be unhappy.
The schedule for this season of American Idol was also revealed on Monday. It will air taped episodes including auditions and early rounds on Sundays and Mondays starting Sunday, March 11, and then just on Sundays starting April 22 until the two-part finale on Sunday, May 20 and Monday, May 21. Episodes will be two hours.
American Idol premieres Sunday, March 11 at 8/7c on ABC.